Thursday, August 15, 2013

by Ben Gillig

University of Iowa student leaders met last week with 11 Iowa state legislators in their home districts and at the State Capitol to discuss affordability and job opportunities for Iowa students.

“First and foremost, we wanted to thank legislators for making the tuition freeze possible this year,” says Katherine Valde, UI’s undergraduate student body president. "We also had really productive discussions about how to continue the tuition freeze in years to come through a combination of increased state appropriations and continued efficiency initiatives on the campuses.”

While the response to keeping in-state undergraduate tuition unchanged this year has been overwhelmingly positive among students, it also appears to be playing well in legislators’ home districts.

“Several lawmakers mentioned that they were hearing from UI students’ parents about the ways the tuition freeze is making paying for college easier this year,” says Undergraduate Student Body Vice President Jack Cumming.

Student leaders and legislators also discussed keeping students in the state after they graduate.

“Our plan involves building student to teacher pathways that will link Iowa students with in-state job opportunities,” says Ben Gillig, the graduate and professional student body president at UI.

The UI has already begun building these pathways by connecting students with Iowa professional associations.

“We need to be more explicit about asking Iowa students to remain in the state once they graduate,” says Gillig, “but we also need to provide them the resources and incentives to do so.”

Student leaders asked legislators to expand the Iowa jobs database already in place for teaching positions to include professions such as medicine, law, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering, and others.

“Beyond having information on in-state jobs, Iowa graduates need to be incentivized to stay here once they graduate,” Gillig adds. To help accomplish this, student leaders asked legislators to allow Iowa graduates to write their student loan repayments off their state taxes. “Tax incentives will help to encourage Iowa’s most educated students to remain and contribute to the state’s economy,” he says.

Over the next months, UI students will continue to meet with state leaders and members of the Board of Regents, State of Iowa to promote the university and highlight its impact on the state.

“We are excited to continue working with our state legislators and the governor to help keep university education affordable and grow the Iowa economy,” Valde says.

A complete list of legislator meetings is below:

  • Sen. Brian Schoenjahn in Oelwein
  • Sen. Wally Horn and Rep. Daniel Lundby in Cedar Rapids
  • Sen. Roby Smith in Davenport
  • Sen. Amanda Ragan and Rep. Sharon Steckman in Mason City
  • Rep. Jake Highfill at the Capitol
  • Rep. Rob Taylor in Clive
  • Speaker of the House Kraig Paulsen at the Capitol
  • Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal in Council Bluffs
  • Sen. Herman Quirmbach in Ames

Ben Gillig (graduate and professional student body president) is a doctoral student in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program, Department of Educational Policy & Leadership.